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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Discrimination in post-World War II naturalization policy : France and Switzerland Desmarès, Camille


With the rise of anti-immigrant populist parties and anti-immigration mobilization across Western states, the topic of discrimination in liberal democracies’ membership regimes has received renewed interest. With a focus on two understudied policies that constitute the cornerstones of France’s and Switzerland’s contemporary nationality regimes (the French Nationality Code of 1945, which is still in force today, and the Law on the Acquisition and Loss of Swiss Nationality of 1952, which was repealed in 2018), my dissertation investigates patterns of discrimination in liberal democracies’ naturalization policies after World War II and policy makers’ motivations for naturalization policy change. Through a discourse analysis of hundreds of archival documents, my research reveals the central role of group-based exclusion in the postwar naturalization policies of France and Switzerland. Both policies maintained and introduced discriminatory naturalization requirements on the basis of ascriptive characteristics (gender in both countries, and country of origin and health status in France). The two pieces of legislation also provided for the granting of differential rights to citizens based on gender (in both countries) and one’s mode of nationality acquisition (in France). Furthermore, my analysis shows that policy makers’ support for principles usually associated with political liberalism (i.e., universalism, state neutrality, and equality before the law) only played a small role, if any, in the development and adoption of new naturalization policies after World War II. In France, the adoption of new naturalization provisions was driven by post-Vichy society’s pressing need to respond to the country’s demographic and economic challenges after the war, as well as by concerns about national identity. In Switzerland, the adoption of stricter naturalization requirements resulted from policy makers’ desire to strengthen national identity and from the associated instrumentalization of alarmist discourses about “foreign overpopulation.” My dissertation contributes to the literature on the persistence of group bias in rules of nationality acquisition by deepening our understanding of the role that discrimination has historically played in the development and consolidation of liberal citizenship. It also highlights the overarching importance of gender when it comes to the differential treatment of applicants to naturalization and citizens.

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